Xbox 2 Hard Disk 'Taken Out'

Hardware partner confirms weeks of gossip – all change for Xbox.

Posted by Staff
Xbox 2 Hard Disk 'Taken Out'
It would appear that the months of speculation regarding the memory components to be found within Microsoft’s looming Xbox 2 games console-cum-media and communications hub have finally been laid to rest, with M-Systems CEO Dov Moran claiming his company will be fitting the device with flash memory.

In an amazing interview in an Israeli newspaper, Moran stated, "It’s a co-operation agreement. The potential is not clear, but it is in the billions of dollars. Microsoft has taken the hard disk out of its Xbox. The only thing left will be a CD; that’s all. At some point, when users want to save their e-mail messages, copy music, or anything like that, the only storage they will have is what we give them. It is worth hundreds of millions to the company, spread over a few years, and we will be the main supplier for it; and I hope the sole supplier.”

As to whether Microsoft will work with a company so eager to shout its business from the rooftops, subsequently giving Sony Computer Entertainment an invaluable insight into the inner workings of the next Xbox, remains to be seen.

Not happy with explaining the memory storage functions of the next generation of Microsoft home console, Moran decided it would be a good thing to drop a hint as to when the manufacture of the machine will begin. "Meanwhile, development is intense, and requires expenses, although not major ones," he said. "We’ll start supply only in 2005."

One thing from this is clear: Microsoft will employ high-capacity flash memory in the Xbox 2, a technology that has been plummeting in price of late. This will empower the machine with significantly faster data-access speeds, as well as avoiding the many issues related with housing the hard disk.

One of the most common reasons for current Xbox consoles to fail stems from hard drive issues. It is also worth noting the endemic piracy suffered by the Xbox, with many consoles fitted with after-market high capacity replacement units.

The question remains, how much flash memory will be incorporated in the Xbox 2? At this moment in time, M-Systems has a portfolio of flash discs ranging in size from 16MB to a whopping 47GB, often deployed in military aircraft.

We’ll bring you updates as this interesting story develops.
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Comments

config 5 Mar 2004 12:19
1/11
This is just plain wrong (the loss of HD, not the story) and utterly evil.

The Xbox 2 will lose many possible game related functions because of MS' desire to have access to all your emails, settings/preferences and a host of other personal information, along with its strategy to become the world's sole manager of digital rights for music, movies and imagery.

This just demonstrates that its true focus is on using Xbox as a digital media hub. Microsoft really has little interest in games beyond using the platform to deliver media - selected and controlled by the corporation - directly into your home.

Evil, evil, evil!

Rod Todd 5 Mar 2004 15:19
2/11
config wrote:

>This is just plain wrong (the loss of HD, not the
>story) and utterly evil.

Dude, centralised storage is a way of Microsoft making sure that EVERY time you play a track, or watch a movie, you pay for it. EVERY TIME. Microsoft is evil.

Now is the time that Apple should get in there and (finally) release the Pippin. A Mac-in-a-Box that incorporates iTunes, iMovie, VLAN client and the excellent eyeTV device would be the uber-hub. And given that the Xbox2 dev kit is a Mac, getting games for it shouldn't be an impossibility.
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Andrew 5 Mar 2004 21:36
3/11
I'm new here, so take it easy, eh? The flash memory will 'deprive the console of some game features'? Maybe I'm thick, but how come? Surely flash memory can do everything a HD can do, and faster? And it's non-volatile too, a la HD. As long as it's big enough to hold plenty of data etc, it will be fine, huh? So what am I missing?
noone 6 Mar 2004 02:19
4/11
Sure, flash is faster than a HD when reading, however, it's MUCH MUCH slower when writing. Also, you can only write it so many times... Imagine a game that used to use the HD as a cache to make the game faster (i.e. pulling data off the dvd before the game needs it, so that it can just grab it off the hd quickly), no you would burn through the flash in a matter of months... Typical flash re-write cycles are only on the order of 10,000 writes... Then the flash is useless, dead, gone.

I take that back... I just checked M-Systems web site and their re-writes are "> 5,000,000 Write/Erase cycles; Read unlimited" So you can only write to the same spot on a disk 2800 times a day for five years before it dies... That's reasonable, but still limits the life of the hardware.

Also, it seems their "Fast Flash Disks" are really fast at flashing... about 40MB/s... Not horribly bad. So this could be a good thing. We'll see.
DoctorDee 6 Mar 2004 09:30
5/11
Andrew wrote:

>Surely
>flash memory can do everything a HD can do, and
>faster? And it's non-volatile too, a la HD. As
>long as it's big enough to hold plenty of data
>etc, it will be fine, huh? So what am I missing?

The thing is, now and for the foreseeable future, any given size of memory in Flash will be MUCH more expensive than hard disk.

Microsoft want to cut cost, but can't lose the ability to do game saves etc etc. So they are removing the hard disk, and putting in what we can only anticipate will be a small amount of Flash.

This will almost certainly remove the option for downloadable levels, patches, skins and models from some games. It will also limit the capability for episodic downloads fo games (not something we have today - but something many games companies were considering).

The greater concern is probably not these things, but the idea that Microsoft don't believe that a consumer should own "Software". They are moving towards a future where you never "own" a copy of Windows, just rent it on a year by year basis. This is because they really can't think of any (worthwhile) new features to add to their operating system (Windows 98 is better then Windows ME, Windows 2000 is faster and more stable than Windows XP) and applictions. People were stopping upgrading, so Microsoft now wants to make it so that you have to pay, year after year, if you upgrade or not... plus they want the ability to FORCE you to upgrade, so they can force the adoption of technologies that shut out competing companies.

Thing is, Microsoft and their RIAA and film industry buddies see games, music and movies as software. They don't want people to "own" these things, they just want you to license usage of them... a pay per view/play/listen world. Some people think that this should be resisted... but it is possible that this is a rectionary response based on ownership against scarcity. In the past, if you saw a film you really liked, you would buy it so that you could watch it whenever you liked, and also so that when people visited your house and browsed your collection, you could establish social connections based on shared taste.

In the future, with a global grid of high speed wireless connections, all media will be available on demand. And a pay per view/listen/play model may be more logical.

If you consider how many times you watch the average DVD in your collection... maybe it would work out more economical. And for serious music lovers, who currently may have many thousands of CDs, but only have the same number of hours per day to play them as a person with 10/20 CDs in their collection, it is likely that a pay per play system would be economically favourable.

Also, such a system would stop the record companies whinging about "file sharing". Currently they attribute the perceived reduction in sales of music to us swapping MP3s, like we never swapped cassette tapes.

They are failing to acknowledge that as more disposable income is spent on computer games (look at the figures) there is less available for music. And the fact that they keep releasing abysmal Pop-Idols dross instead of interesting music, and they market the crap out of everything, which prevents bands forming a loyal grass-roots fan-base, who will stick with them after the first album.

But a system with centralised distribution of media could have very serious (and possibly even frightening) implications for corporate control of content, and censorship.
Ben Furfie 8 Mar 2004 10:48
6/11
>This just demonstrates that its true focus is on
>using Xbox as a digital media hub. Microsoft
>really has little interest in games beyond using
>the platform to deliver media - selected and
>controlled by the corporation - directly into
>your home.
>
>Evil, evil, evil!
>

Errr... Its exactly the same for Sony... except the Xbox is a containment device for Sonys playstation rather than being their to beat it, MS doesn't need another monopoly to be shouted at for... Sony wants to control your living room and so does Microsoft, thats why Sony and Microsoft both got into the games console business... not to provide you with entertainment, but to provide themselves with your money to line their pockets
Andrew 8 Mar 2004 11:17
7/11
I think Ben has the right perspective on this issue. Microsoft gets a load of beating for 'wanting to control our living rooms' etc, but Sony is in exactly the same position, as are most global companies.
Second - MS is in a very strong position to more-or-less name its price for the flash memory - didn't they crank nVidea's arm up its back for the GPU?
So maybe (and let us not forget that we are speculating on an as yet unfounded rumour...) there will be a decent amount of flash mem in XB2, or maybe there will be a HD. Or maybe MS is just wrong-footing Sony by sneakily releasing mis-information?
One thing is for sure - given the riches and power to be had from being No1 in the 'home entertainment' market, MS ain't going to spoil XB2 for a ha'porth o' tar.
config 8 Mar 2004 12:17
8/11
Andrew wrote:

>I think Ben has the right perspective on this
>issue. Microsoft gets a load of beating for
>'wanting to control our living rooms' etc,

It's not the living room they care about, it's the media, the entertainment you ingest that they want pay-per-view/play/listen revenue on.

On Xbox, sans hard drive, means you *have* to download every add-on level/mission pack/music/movie/whatever file, *every* time.

The inability to save large datafiles (were talking several hundred mega) means the future of user created add-ons is nonexistant. Unless, of course, its officially endorsed and hosted by Microsoft.

> but
>Sony is in exactly the same position, as are most
>global companies.

Though there seems to be some disagreement/misalignment between SCE and Sony Electronics and Sony Pictures. Why exactly would SCE make a region free PS2 if they were all pulling together? That one was quickly stopped before PS2 released in the west. How about the last minute axeing of numberous, movie pirate-friendly formats for PSX's launch? Sure, they mostly back in for the western launch, but it looks like the PSX wanted cool stuff that could have threatened the revenues of the other arms of Sony.

>Second - MS is in a very strong position to
>more-or-less name its price for the flash memory
>- didn't they crank nVidea's arm up its back for
>the GPU?

Yeah. LOL. Its my opinion that ATI have a very short memory, an air tight contract or maybe their greed just got the better of them. Whatever the case, one must remember that while MS had nVidia's arm up its back, they stiffed them big style - from behind. nVidia gave MS an exceptional deal in term of pricing, in the end they lost 7m USD due to "slower than expected Xbox sales". A cautionary tale to any would be supply for XB2.

>So maybe (and let us not forget that we are
>speculating on an as yet unfounded rumour...)
>there will be a decent amount of flash mem in
>XB2, or maybe there will be a HD.

Indeed, though one must remember that no amount of flash mem could match a HD on a dollar per meg basis.

Andrew 8 Mar 2004 12:57
9/11
OK Config -you said:

On Xbox, sans hard drive, means you *have* to download every add-on level/mission pack/music/movie/whatever file, *every* time

but if you look back at my original post, you'll see that I said 'if the XB2 has enough flash to store enough data, it'll work just fine...' (or words to that effect)

The XB2 sure isn't going without some large storage device - that'd be crazy, and I'm sure MS know it. It would be like a PS2, so MS aren't going down that route.
Anyhoo, I'm off for lunch - back later.
config 8 Mar 2004 15:08
10/11
Andrew wrote:

>On Xbox, sans hard drive, means you *have* to
>download every add-on level/mission
>pack/music/movie/whatever file, *every* time
>
>but if you look back at my original post, you'll
>see that I said 'if the XB2 has enough flash to
>store enough data, it'll work just fine...' (or
>words to that effect)

I did. I also said that I was talking about files that were "several hundred mega" (clearly meaning "megs").

Sure you can pick up a 256Mb flash cart for a reasonable price these days, but I'm gonna have to have a handfull of these if I want to download and keep more than a few large files.

>The XB2 sure isn't going without some large
>storage device - that'd be crazy, and I'm sure
>MS know it.

I agree, it's gotta have a large capacity, persistent storage device, but I wouldn't call 256, 512Mb or even 1Gb large storage.

>It would be like a PS2, so MS aren't
>going down that route.

They shouldn't write off any route that would offer the success of Sony's box.

After all this, one has to factor in the limited life of flash memory (dulled wetware memory seems to recall a lifespan of 1,000 rewrites)

A hard disk is the *only* way to go, from a gamer's perspective.


DoctorDee 8 Mar 2004 18:17
11/11
Ben Furfie wrote:


>Errr... Its exactly the same for Sony... except
>the Xbox is a containment device for Sonys
>playstation rather than being their to beat it

I agree with the part about Sony. While we might hate Microsoft foor their piss poor excuses for operating systems, and their anti-competitive attitude that has held back innovation in the computer world, it doesn't mean that we want Sony to have a monopoly in the living room.

The thing is, while the Xbox might prove a containment device for PS in the short term, Microsoft's long terms goal seeems to be TOTAL domination, and that is undesirable.

But from the point of view of freedom of speech, consumer choice and to give developers a chance, it would be better if it were impossible for a small number of companies (Microsoft, Sony, Disney, Time Warner, EMI) to control all entertaiment media. Legislation shoul dprotect a free press... but if you realised exactly hos much ALL press are prepared to bend over and grease up for their advertisers, it would shock you.

Virtually ever review you read has been "bought"... and of course, the bigger companioes have more "buying power"...
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